By Jack Quinn
Read to Succeed Buffalo was founded on the principle that literacy gives people the power to overcome challenges such as family poverty, attending a low-performing school or living in a poor neighborhood.
Becoming literate in spite of these challenges is a process that must start at birth, providing the background knowledge, exposure to language, both written and spoken, and experience base that infants and toddlers need to master prereading skills.
This progression of intentional exposure and skill-building must continue through third grade, the pivot point when children advance from learning how to read to reading to learn.
If children are not reading with proficiency by the end of third grade and face risk factors such as living in poverty, they are actually 13 times less likely to graduate high school.
At the core of RTSB’s program is an innovative combination of embedded coaching and assessment-based accountability that builds on a foundation of scientifically based reading research, literacy coaching and assessment that is focused on closing the low-income achievement gap. RTSB has demonstrated consistent and statistically significant effects on receptive oral language development in students served.
What makes RTSB unique is its insistence on accountability not just in preschool, but in the early grades as well, mitigating the tremendous first- and second-grade academic decline experienced by approximately 30 percent of students in Buffalo.
RTSB trained professionals are in the classroom with teachers along the birth through second-grade continuum to ensure consistent assessment and application of age-appropriate reading strategies. These professionals also administer and interpret data from nationally normed assessments in order to support individualized instruction.
You may be asking why a college president would care about third-grade reading proficiency. I care because I see the impact low literacy can have on youth as they attempt to transition from high school to college. I care because the better prepared our students are for college, the better prepared they are to be successful at Erie Community College or any college or career they may choose. Finally, I care because if they are not prepared, they have very few choices in life and our city suffers as a result.
Making sure every child in Buffalo can read and communicate proficiently by the end of third grade is an effective strategy for maintaining the economic renaissance in Western New York This will only be accomplished if, as a community, we focus our resources in providing the best supports possible for these students and their teachers.
Jack Quinn is president of Erie Community College and chairman of the board of directors of Read to Succeed Buffalo Inc.